MDD/AC2005 presentation on Web sites and tips

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Web sites and email lists - tips for online success

Neal McBurnett, UU Church of Boulder CO
MDD Annual Conference, 2005-10-09

Web sites - important for UUs

  • Deb Weiner (Director of Electronic Communications at the UUA) tips from UUA GA 2005 program (see
  • Many congregational members don't see the point of spending money on a web site, but it's the primary way that congregations are finding new members. Web content is also a wonderful resource for members who are housebound or in nursing homes, or who have vision or mobility issues that computers can solve or ameliorate. The older age group may not understand the need for a web site, but you can identify advocates in that age group who have seen the point of the Web because they use it to communicate with their grandchildren.
  • For congregations and districts, having a good web site is key. The site needs to be welcoming to the new visitor with an attractive, clean style. It should have lots of pictures that make it personal, make good use of white space, avoid too much glitz (like sound or long Flash animations), and have a memorable web address (URL). Your site needs to be timely, match the style of your congregation, be truly inviting; and provide basic PR information (who, what, when, where how) about your services. Keep pages fairly short, so that people don't need to scroll way down to find what they are looking for.
  • Prospective members need to be able to find everything that they need to know when considering whether to visit. Existing members need to be able to find out about activities and publications, but this material doesn't need to be on the home page, because it can be confusing to visitors. You may want to have a separate site, or a separate section of the site, for members and these pages may be password-protected so that it can contain more personal information than you'd want to put on a public site.
  • A UU from the San Diego, CA area pointed out that San Diego area cluster of congregations has a regional site at External Site, which was professionally designed. It is entirely directed at visitors, with links to the member congregations.
  • Weiner also pointed out that your congregational board needs to have policy about what should be on your web site, what its privacy rules are, and what its mission is. Although volunteers can be very helpful, congregations who don't have qualified volunteers need to come up with a way to pay for web design and help with getting a site set up. Visitors have become sophisticated enough that bad designs are no longer good enough \u2013 they drive visitors away. The content can be generated by your staff and committees, but the design may need to be professionally created.
  • Some cool web sites for UU youth and young adults:
    • Church of the Younger Fellowship (
    • - 1700 members, streaming media for younger UUs
  • See Websters handout for technical FAQs -


  • Much of the information I'm presenting is rooted in UUWiki.
  • A "wiki" is a quick and fun way for people to work together on a web page.
  • is a famous example: biggest, most popular encyclopedia in the world, created and maintained by volunteers. Worldwide, in dozens of languages. A testament to the ability of humanity to work together.
  • UUWiki is dedicated to helping Unitarian Universalists share information and work together using a "wiki". Please add your own expertise by editing its articles and contributing your own.
  • Handouts:
    • UUWiki home page
    • Websters page
    • Editing the Websters page

Classic MDD Web site:

  • Lots of work by Al Bailey, Dispatch editors and others, since 1994
  • 2000 files
  • 100 folders
  • 50 MB
  • Hosted by UUA
  • All Open Source software
  • Classic hand-crafted Apache web site

New MDD Web site

  • Still in development, temporally at
  • Desire to make it easy for staff and volunteers to directly
  • update web site
  • "Content Management System" - CMS
  • See handouts, sample entry of calendar event
  • Easy to stay in touch: supports syndication via RSS
  • Committed to standards compliance, accessibility
  • Using Plone CMS, on Zope web server
  • Apache front-ends with other files there also
  • Still all open source
  • Plone/zope takes more resources than plain Apache
  • Hosted by ("webmaster" virtual server) - $30/month
  • Other good CMS options: Drupal, Mambo/Joomla, Xoops

  • MDD gets mailing lists, DNS and other support from
  • many good free and low cost options for UU congregations

Email and Mailing lists

Dealing with spam

  • Increasingly important to avoid hosting companies that don't crack down on spam. Otherwise your mail may not get thru because you're on a blacklist.

Well run mailing lists can be very valuable sources of help and insight

  • See e.g. the list at UUA, and support sites at UUWiki:
  • To run mailing lists: Mailman is good, free software


Other free software

  • Firefox browser:
    • More secure than Internet Explorer
    • Stops popup ads
    • Tabbed browsing
    • Great "Web Developer Toolbar"
    • Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.
  • Thunderbird email client
    • Safer than Outlook
    • Free, popular alternative to Microsoft Office
  • Linux operating system
    • Has most market share for web servers
    • More and more popular on desktops
    • Good distributions: Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Red Hat, Suse

More ideas presented during the workshop: